How to Maintain a Convertible Top

by Ron Cogan

Convertible tops look great when a car is new, but won't stay that way without proper care. Sunshine is probably the biggest culprit. Many modern convertible tops have a glass rear window. If yours doesn't, then this should get your attention, since rear plastic windows are often the first part of a convertible top to suffer. Scratches and discoloration not only look bad, but also distort rearward visibility.

Use specialty cleaners on softtops.

Convertible tops should be cleaned at least twice a year, more frequently if a car is parked outside. Use only high quality convertible top cleaners designed for this purpose. If possible, use a cleaner that's biodegradable. Do not use abrasive detergents or scouring powders that contain chlorine-based bleaching agents. They can weaken a top's seam threads and remove essential oils in vinyl tops that are needed for protection against the sun's UV rays.

Wash the top in the shade and not in direct sunlight. Make sure the top is cool before wetting. After wetting the top thoroughly, spray a light coating of top cleaner evenly across the top and gently work the cleaner using a soft sponge or brush to scrub away dirt. Once cleaned, rinse off the cleaner while brushing and using lots of water from a nozzleless hose. Continue until sudsing stops and the rinse water runs clear.

Do not use ordinary glass cleaners if the window is plastic, since these are too harsh and may damage the plastic. Use cleaners and polishes specifically designed for plastic windows. Try to find one that doesn't contain solvents that can harm the environment. These products will remove minor scratches as well as dirt and help prevent the plastic from discoloring.

You don't need to use a top cleaner every time you wash the car. You can usually keep a top clean by washing with plain water. If it's dirty, use a gentle, pH neutral car wash and make sure to rinse thoroughly. After washing, let the top dry completely before folding it down, since this will prevent mold and mildew.

After cleaning, use a top protectant to preserve the color and texture of the top material. This will also prevent fading and cracking, and additionally help repel dirt, grease and oil.

Remove bird droppings immediately. They are very acidic and can quickly damage tops.

Don't let snow accumulate on your top. While a softtop can handle moderate amounts of snow, heavy or wet snow can overload the top structure and bend the metal frame. Be careful when removing snow and ice from plastic rear windows so you avoid scratching the plastic.

Tips

  • check Use a sticky clothing lint roller to remove dust and lint from the top and clean the plastic window without scratching.
  • check To prevent creasing and scratching plastic windows, place a soft towel or baby blanket over the plastic rear window before folding down the top.

Warning

  • close Don't leave your convertible out in the elements more than you have to. If at all possible, park your convertible in a garage or carport. If you can't, then use a high quality, breatheable car cover.

Items you will need

About the Author

Ron Cogan is a general manager of GreenCar.com, the leading source of information on “green” cars on the Web. He is also the publisher of the award-winning Green Car Journal magazine and chief executive of the Green Car Group, an organization that specializes in the interaction of automobiles and the environment. A former Motor Trend feature editor, he has been quoted as an expert source by international publications and has appeared on major network news programs and Good Morning America.